The Russian dancer who battled schizophrenia, yet changed the face of ballet, is now a ballet himself.
It might be a tired cliché, but as history has repeatedly taught us, the greatest geniuses are often the most troubled. Tortured by their singular gifts yet capable of mind-blowing paradigm shifts, great visionaries can be destined to live either in the spotlight or the shadows, embraced by an adoring public or relegated to the fringes of society.
In the world of ballet, there is one particular figure, whose titanic contribution to the art form – particularly with regards to the role of men within dance – is matched in scale only by his tragic personal catastrophe: dancer and choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky.
The Russian-Polish iconoclast was one of the first male dancers to be truly regarded as a star, almost single-handedly reviving the waning public appetite for ballet at the beginning of the 20th century. Crowds flocked to his performances in Paris with the Ballet Russes, clamouring for a chance to witness his miraculous, gravity defying leaps and sensuous physicality. He challenged almost every convention in ballet with his extraordinary virtuosity and radical, often scandalising choreographies, including the notorious premiere productions of Stravinsky’s The...